Mark Wertz knows a thing or two about the Late Model Stock 300 at Martinsville Speedway so take these words to heart about the Southern Lightning Modified race on Saturday at Southern National Motorsports Park during the Thanksgiving Classic.
"When Mike Diaz first took over the track in 2012, he had asked a bunch of us Virginia racers if we thought a Modified division would take off," Wertz said. "I said, you know, if you get the right structure, right plan and the right schedule, I thought there was enough cars and drivers to support the track.
"And it worked: This is probably a little strong, but I really feel like the Thanksgiving Classic has turned into the Martinsville 300 for Modifieds. The guys back home get really excited about it and you see all the social media posts about it as soon as the season ends at Langley."
The race on Saturday night has been christened the Mighty Mouse 48 -- a tribute to 11-time Langley Speedway champion Shawn Balluzzo.
The reason is more than just another opportunity to pay respect to one of the most admired racers in the Mid-Atlantic. Diaz credits Balluzzo as the reason the Southern Lightning Modifieds became a fixture at Southern National.
"Shawn is the reason this Modified class runs at Southern National during the Thanksgiving Classic," Diaz said. "He called and told me that he would help build the division if we added it and he did just that.
"I find it only fitting that we make it a tribute race to Shawn and call it the Mighty Mouse 48. Such a great friend on and off the track."
Langley Speedway champion Matt Carter is amongst the headliners making the trip down from Virginia and wishes Balluzzo was here to join them.
"Basically, Shawn was Modified racing in Virginia," Carter said. "Whatever lead he took, we followed and if he wanted to race somewhere, he could bring a bunch of us with him. I’m not familiar with that story about Southern National, but it makes sense given how much respect everyone had for him."
With 10 wins at Langley this season, Carter would be an easy pick to win, but it’s not that straightforward.
"So, I feel pretty good about it," Carter said. "We tested last week, and the car was fast. But there are some uncertainty with the tires. We’re running on scuffs so I don’t know what the stagger is going to be and that’s something all of us are going to have to deal with.
"The track was pretty abrasive too, because it hasn’t been raced on in awhile but it should take rubber pretty fast with so many divisions racing. So, the track is going to change a lot too."